Alf Hornborg: Ecological Unequal Exchange

Professor Alf Hornborg is best known for his understanding on the concept of ‘ecological unequal exchange’. He talks on alternative value measurements compared to paper money. “When the UK, in 1850, imported cotton fibre and exported cotton textiles this seemed ‘fair’ but if you quantify the amount of land to produce either of these goods then you find that the UK was depending on 58 hectares of colonies for every hectare of UK soil.” Land and labor used to produce a commodity are highly unequal. Alf further dissects the disorder that capitalism creates at its periphery, proposes a specific type of 2 currencies-economies and calls the whole green economy saga an ideological cover-up. 

Alf talks about the ‘fetishization’ of technology while also explaining why he makes exceptions to his fundamental technology critique for IT and medicine – passing through Marx on its way. The two men talk on examples of consumer blindness and in the end Alf comes to his main argument of ecological unequal exchange; “In the seventies people like Samir Amin said that in international trade there is a net transfer of embodied labor time embodied in the produce exported from less developed countries. Simply put: labor exploitation. I would add that there is not only unequal exchange of labor-time but also unequal exchange of natural space.” 

Professor Alf Hornborg is a partner in EJOLT and works for the human ecology department of LUND university in Sweden. Lund University.

This podcast is part of a series produced by AfrobeatRadio / Firoze Manji for EJOLT, in collaboration with EJOLT partner CCS. All podcasts in the EJOLT Series were aired on AfrobeatRadio broadcast on WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio NYC in the US. This a full version of the podcast, replacing parts 1 & 2 on EJOLT website.